Disaster Capitalism Meets the Boston Public Library

By way of Universal Hub, we discover that the greatest crisis the City of Boston (God save it!) faces is some excess space in the Johnson Building (aka the ‘New Wing’*) of the Boston Public Library (boldface mine):

The first few floors of the Boston Public Library’s Copley Square branch could be transformed into a boutique shopping center, according to a source familiar with the proposal.

A plan under discussion at City Hall could turn as much as 150,000 square feet of space in the 1972 Johnson Building into a restaurant that would spill onto Boylston Street, as well as an assortment of other retail from the basement to the third level. The library’s interior could be wrapped in glass, similar to the nearby Apple store, with a new entrance on Exeter Street.

“The addition of as many as seven upscale shops could bring an infusion of foot traffic to the library and cash for the city,” the source said. “It could be the place for a Nordstrom or a Target.”

Unbeknownst to many, the monumental inscription on the McKim building “The Commonwealth Requires The Education Of The People As The Safeguard Of Order And Liberty” was originally going to read “The Commonwealth Requires The Education Of The People or a Nordstrom’s As The Safeguard Of Order And Liberty”, but space limitations led to the shorter version.

I made that up. But seriously, you know what the library should do with all of that space? OPEN A GIANT CUPCAKE STORE. Because the neighborhood has a real shortage of cupcake stores. By the way, I sense a real business opportunity here: I wonder if any of Boston’s food trucks might also consider selling cupcakes. But I digress.

Before we reach the serious bit, it’s worth noting that councilman Mike Ross plays his usual role of campaign donation supplicant:

Boston City Councilor Michael Ross, whose district abuts the library, was unaware of the BPL plan, but said the idea has merit. “If there’s an opportunity to do it tastefully and do it well and if it’s the right type of use, it makes sense,” he said. “There’s truth to the fact that there are some dead spots at the library, it closes early and it’s not open entirely on weekends. I’m looking forward to hearing more.”

According to Adam Gaffin, the library will spend $1.5 million on a study to figure out what to do with the space (how about fill it with $1.5 million worth of books? Or more hours at branches? Or keep the third floor of the McKim building open?). Once you spend that sort of money, you have to do something. It’s the Iron Law of Consultants: you pay people lots of money to justify a decision you’ve already made.

The Boston Public Library does face real budget shortfalls. Money is tight, and talk around town is that the current board isn’t so hot at fundraising. That the economy sucks and our elites are increasingly sociopathic doesn’t help either. And everyone in Boston knows the most dangerous place in Boston is between Mayor Menino and a potential pile of revenue.

But the real problem is that state support for municipalities has been slashed, even before the collapse of Big Shitpile. Libraries, even the BPL which was once called “the palace for the people”, are getting hammered, since police, firemen, and education also getting cut. This is a symptom of a failure of governance. The state has to step up here. Menino et alia need to make it clear to the governor and the Lege that they need to find additional revenue, that in a state with a regressive tax structure, that they will have find some modicum of courage and raise taxes on the wealthy to bail out cash-strapped towns all across Massachusetts. Hell, if needs be, shut down the BPL–by law the “library of last resource” for the citizens of Massachusetts–for a week as a ‘savings measure.’ Maybe shaming will work.

This is what disaster capitalism looks like: underfunded public services and infrastructures slowly get privatized.

And now it’s hitting the Boston Public Library.

Related: The MBTA is considering auctioning off subway station names.

*This being Boston, ‘new’ means 1972.

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2 Responses to Disaster Capitalism Meets the Boston Public Library

  1. Rugosa says:

    Kick*ss Cupcakes parks near Trinity Place today. Just sayin’

  2. kaleberg
    Kaleberg says:

    If you’ve studied your history, you’d know that privatization was the road to serfdom.

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